Hospital trust disputes death rate report findings

Scunthorpe General Hospital.
Scunthorpe General Hospital.

UNDER fire hospital bosses say mortality rates have improved despite an influential report finding they had one of the highest rates nationally for patients dying.

The Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was included in the top 12 health trusts where the number of patients dying was ‘alarming’. The trust runs Scunthorpe Hospital which treats the majority of residents from the Isle of Axholme.

However, bosses have criticised the findings included in the Dr Foster Hospital Guide 2012, published this week, saying a shake-up of services had resulted in fewer deaths. This follows a separate report earlier this year which also found the trust’s death rates were among the highest nationally.

The trust said some of the figures in the Dr Foster report were 18 months old and fresh data showed mortality rates had improved in recent months.

Karen Jackson, chief executive, said the statistics did not ‘demonstrate the dedication from staff at all levels to the provision of safe, high quality care’.

The guide states the trust fell short on two of four mortality rate indicators - which includes deaths following hospital treatment and deaths while in hospital care - between April 2011 and March 2012.

Its authors express concern that ‘poor-quality care may be leading to a higher-than-expected mortality’.

Three months ago Transforming Health Ltd named the trust as one of the ten worst in the country for death rates.

Since then bosses implemented a 40 point action plan and released new figures this week.

They showed the ‘inpatient crude mortality rate’ improved as a whole between November 2011 and October 2012.

The ‘risk adjusted mortality index’ (RAMI) showed the number of deaths at the trust had dropped from 772 between November 2010 and October 2011 to 705 over the next 12 months.

Dr Liz Scott, the trust’s medical director, said: “The Dr Foster measure of mortality rates – the hospital standardised mortality ratio (HSMR) – is in line with the summary hospital level mortality indicator (SHMI), which is to be expected as they both refer back to the same period of time, which is April 2011 to March 2012.

“Staff have worked very hard this year to improve these rates but this won’t be reflected in either the SHMI or the HSMR for some time due to their retrospective nature.

“We must also remember that the SHMI includes deaths in the community for up 30 days after hospital discharge, which affects the statistics.

“However, more up-to-date information from the rate adjusted mortality index shows that the trust’s mortality rates are improving.”

“The RAMI figures are reassuring but we will not become complacent. Mortality rates remain an issue for the whole health community and, together with our commissioners and GPs, we are making sure that all possible factors are addressed.”